The historical past behind Texas’ and Oklahoma’s transfer to the SEC — and why it is taking place now


[Editor’s note: The news that Texas and Oklahoma were planning to leave the conference — which became official on Friday — was a reminder that in college football, the past is never really the past. ESPN reporters Heather Dinich, Mark Schlabach and Dave Wilson show how the roots of this decision date back to the creation of the Big 12 itself and why, this time, it reached a breaking point.]

Final Tuesday, the Huge 12 convention athletic administrators had the identical weekly name they have been having for the reason that onset of the pandemic. All 10 faculties participated, together with commissioner Bob Bowlsby.

In keeping with a number of sources on the decision, Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione, whose program now intends to into the SEC, volunteered to be on a committee to assessment the Huge 12’s girls’s basketball championship. The next day, the Houston Chronicle reported Texas and Oklahoma meant to depart the convention. Whereas it is unlikely Castiglione knew the best-kept secret in school sports activities was about to blow up, there’s now a realization all through the league he was a part of conserving it.

“Take into consideration how disingenuous that dedication was,” the supply stated. “That is how dangerous this stings.”

The drama of the previous week within the Huge 12 that accompanied the pending departure of flagship applications Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC was an all-too-familiar place for a league within the midst of historical past repeating itself.

In reality, it is how the Huge 12 started.

A Texas-sized battle

It was Dec. 22, 1994, and the league, which would not play its first recreation for almost two years and hadn’t even employed a commissioner but, was already in jeopardy. Sharks had been circling because the Pac-10 was trying to poach Colorado and flagship member Texas. Coaches and directors reacted with shock, anger and a sense of damaged belief.

“We might hope they’d see the knowledge and desirability of fulfilling the dedication all of us made to one another,” Iowa State president Martin C. Jischke stated on the time.

Finally, the Buffaloes and Longhorns stayed put, with Texas emphatic about their want to construct the brand new convention.

“We simply aren’t going to try this,” stated DeLoss Dodds, then Texas’ athletic director, in 1994. “We have a dedication to the Huge 12. It is an moral dedication and it is the best factor to do.”

The Huge 12 was a supply of satisfaction for Dodds, who retired at Texas in 2013 after 32 years on the helm. At his farewell press convention, he started by thanking Donnie Duncan, his good friend and former counterpart at Oklahoma.

“When he was AD at Oklahoma, Donnie and I just about took the Huge Eight and the Southwest Convention and made the Huge 12,” he stated that day.

Now the rivals have teamed up once more, this time to bolt the convention they co-founded.

The timing of the transfer could seem stunning, provided that Texas and Oklahoma’s TV cash belongs to the Huge 12 till 2025. Looking back, although, instability has plagued the Huge 12 for the previous decade. It began with Texas’ flirtation with the Pac-10 in 2010 that just about noticed a mass exodus of the league, resulting in mistrust, harm emotions and a way the league needed to bow to the whims of the Longhorns — whether or not they had been successful soccer video games or not.

Lawrence Phillips and Nebraska romped over Michigan State en path to claiming a nationwide championship in 1995 and have become a part of the Huge 12 the following 12 months. In 2011, the Cornhuskers bolted to the Huge Ten. Jonathan Daniel/Allsport

Colorado lasted 15 years earlier than ultimately leaping to the Pac-10 in 2011. Nebraska, which received consecutive nationwide championships in 1994 and 1995 earlier than shifting to the Huge 12 in 1996, additionally cut up in 2011, struggling to search out its footing once more within the Huge Ten. Texas A&M lastly discovered an exit hatch to flee to its dream vacation spot, the SEC, in 2012 together with Missouri.

In some ways, this was a continuation of previous grudges and dangerous blood that adopted the groups from the SWC.

Texas and Texas A&M initially arrived within the Huge 12 after 81 seasons within the Texas-centric convention amid frustration with being weighed down by smaller rivals with smaller pockets, smaller stadiums and smaller ambitions. They had been joined within the new convention by Baylor and Texas Tech, who muscled their method into the life raft with assist of highly effective politicians.

Texas’ governor on the time, Ann Richards, was a Baylor grad. Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock held levels from each Baylor and Texas Tech. As advised by Dave McNeely and Jim Henderson, within the ebook “Bob Bullock: God Bless Texas,” Bullock referred to as Texas and Texas A&M’s presidents to his workplace in early 1994 and advised them: “You take Tech and Baylor, otherwise you’re not taking something. I am going to reduce your cash off, and you may be a part of privately if you’d like, however you will not get one other nickel of state cash.”

The 4 Texas faculties had been forsaking a league identified for petty infighting amongst groups the place the proximity and satisfaction of Texas egos spilled off the sphere and into an costly competitors amongst boosters that led to a tradition of finger-pointing. Their new Huge Eight companions felt they introduced that angle with them from the beginning and did not take very kindly to it.

“There was a way within the Huge Eight {that a} rising tide lifts all ships,” Invoice Byrne, the previous Nebraska athletic director, advised the Houston Chronicle in 2016. “We labored exhausting to ensure everybody succeeded and that was the tradition of the Huge Eight. Individuals helped slightly than taking one another down. That modified after we went into the Huge 12. It was, ‘Man the lifeboats. You are by yourself.'”

A number of sources within the Huge 12 have agreed they had been blindsided by the information that Texas and OU needed out — one saying they did not first consider the report within the Houston Chronicle as a result of the league had been so unified all through the pandemic and assured within the management of Bowlsby and the convention presidents as they navigated by way of the tumultuous 2020 season.

After many years of Dodds’ affect, Texas has a comparatively new energy construction calling the pictures. Del Conte arrived from TCU in 2017 and Kevin Eltife, a businessman and state senator, was appointed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott because the chair of the UT system board of regents in 2018. Eltife named Jay Hartzell the brand new Texas president final 12 months. Collectively, all three males have spoken of a brand new “alignment” and shared imaginative and prescient for the Longhorns.

“We won’t take a backseat to anybody,” Eltife stated on Thursday night time throughout an alumni occasion in his honor in his hometown of Tyler, Texas. “And if we really feel that one thing is in the very best curiosity of our college, we’ll do our degree finest to go after it.”

In keeping with the league’s first commissioner, Steve Hatchell, these competing agendas already existed. From the start, the Huge 12 faculties could not even agree if they need to contemplate it an growth of the Huge Eight or a brand new league completely. The trophy, brand and league workers had been all hotly debated selections determined by cut up votes.

“Every thing was seven [votes] to 5,” Hatchell advised ESPN final 12 months. “It wasn’t at all times the identical seven and never at all times the identical 5. Eagles do not fly in formation.”

The league workplace moved from Kansas Metropolis to the Dallas space, which irritated the applications outdoors the state of Texas. The opposite factor that irritated them: the applications within the state of Texas. Principally the one in Austin.

“So long as Texas received the whole lot it needed, issues had been steady,” Byrne, who later left Nebraska to be athletic director at A&M, advised the Chronicle. “However when an establishment — and I used to be at two of them — stated it should not be Texas’ method or the freeway, there was pushback.”

The Huge 12’s income distribution wasn’t equal from the beginning. In 2011, after Colorado and Nebraska left, the now-10-team Huge 12 adopted a brand new income sharing settlement that was extra equitable. Baylor, Kansas State, Missouri, Kansas and Iowa State provided to contribute their shares of the estimated $30 million buyout income paid to the league by Colorado and Nebraska to Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M to maintain them within the league.

“These 5 establishments that weren’t being pursued as dramatically had been taking a look at a really troublesome future with considerably much less income,” Dan Beebe, who served as Huge 12 commissioner from 2007-2011, introduced in 2010.

However the one factor that wasn’t up for sharing? The 20-year, $300 million deal from Texas’ new Longhorn Community.

“That is by no means been in play, that is not in play,” Dodds stated on the time.

The Huge 12 was the one main convention that allowed faculties to promote their third-tier tv rights, which is how Texas created the LHN. Oklahoma partnered with a regional community to create the Sooner Sports activities Community. Each league faculty had the identical alternative to promote theirs, they simply could not command the cash these two -especially the Longhorns – may. The remaining eight faculties ultimately pooled their third-tier rights in a partnership with ESPN+ for $40 million a 12 months cut up between them starting within the 2019 season. However nonetheless, the league was left as the one Energy 5 convention with out its personal community. That is on the coronary heart of the place we’re right now. The identical issues — smaller faculties being backed by larger faculties — that in the end plagued the SWC nonetheless existed within the Huge 12.

However Dodds was by no means shy about what the Longhorns dropped at the desk or what {the marketplace} dropped at them. In 2011, in the course of the center of one other spherical of turbulence within the league with Texas A&M searching for to maneuver to the SEC, he spoke to the McCombs College of Enterprise at Texas and up to date them on the state of faculty sports activities negotiations, main with the Pac-12’s new TV deal, which was price about price $225 million yearly, with every faculty anticipated to obtain $21 million a 12 months.


“The Huge 12, we’re gonna be at these numbers,” he stated. “Texas might be method, method forward of these numbers. When it comes to funds, Texas might be forward of any faculty within the nation when it comes to TV cash. The unbiased factor, the media talks about that. If we needed to do it, we may do it. If we needed to do one thing in a different way proper now, we have had a number of conversations with Notre Dame. We have had conversations about constructing one thing that is nationwide. Possibly greater than 20 groups, simply go get some tiers and work out conferences from that.”

The implication was that Texas may very well be the place it needed, when it needed, and be simply positive. Now that someplace would be the SEC. So what modified?

Income and realignment

Texas is finishing a $175 million stadium mission for a brand new south finish zone addition that opens this season. The Longhorns’ dwelling schedule this fall options Louisiana, Rice, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Kansas and Kansas State. That is not a lineup that instructions premium ticket costs. Similar at Oklahoma, which accomplished a $160 million stadium renovation in time for the 2016 season.

“They do not need empty seats,” an trade supply stated. “That is one factor they’ll management.”

Now, as these faculties left behind within the Huge 12 — Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech and West Virginia — scramble to both shore up their convention or discover a new dwelling, they all of a sudden have to fret about issues like “footprints” and “manufacturers.”

That ought to alarm them. As The Athletic famous earlier this week, 33 of the 38 Huge 12 regular-season video games that had been broadcast on ABC and Fox in 2018 and 2019 concerned both Oklahoma or Texas, or each. Much more telling, 27 of the league’s 30 most-watched regular-season video games featured the Longhorns and/or Sooners.

In keeping with The Athletic, which pulled its TV rankings knowledge from Sports activities Media Watch, the 22 Oklahoma regular-season video games in 2018-19 averaged 3.76 million viewers on ABC, Fox, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU or FS1; the 18 Texas video games on these channels averaged 3.2 million. The opposite 59 video games that included the remaining eight Huge 12 groups — and never OU or UT–averaged about 886,000 viewers.

“All of these faculties within the SEC have the ‘College of’ in entrance of them — the College of Alabama, College of Georgia, College of Florida,” former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer advised ESPN this week. “All of them sit 100,000 folks. It is totally different from these church faculties we have now in our league.”

Texas A&M has discovered it does certainly imply extra within the SEC. In keeping with its twelfth Man Basis, the Aggies have performed in 5 regular-season SEC soccer video games that had been watched by greater than seven million viewers. Over that very same span, the complete Huge 12 had one recreation whole that drew that many followers — when Ohio State performed at TCU in 2018, which drew 7.2 million viewers.

“It is a bigger stage,” former Texas A&M and Alabama coach Gene Stallings stated. “Once they play a recreation, wherever they play it, it is in an enormous stadium and it is a sellout.”

That is one of many causes, based on trade specialists, why the Huge 12 would have by no means reached the identical TV revenues because the Huge Ten and SEC. The Huge 12 distributed a median of about $38 million to its members in fiscal 2020, which ranked third amongst Energy 5 leagues, behind the Huge Ten ($54.3 million) and SEC ($45.5 million), based on USA At present. However that may have been the ceiling for the Huge 12 — even with Oklahoma and Texas staying put — whereas the Huge Ten’s and SEC revenues are anticipated to proceed to develop dramatically. In December, Disney and the SEC introduced a 10-year deal that can make ABC and ESPN the unique properties for SEC soccer and males’s basketball. The deal, which the New York Instances reported was price about $300 million yearly, is anticipated to extend the league’s distributions to varsities to about $68 million per 12 months.

The hope for some throughout the Huge 12, a minimum of based on one supply, is to merge with the Pac-12. Whereas the American Athletic Convention plans to be aggressive in its try to develop to 14 or 16 groups, the leftover Huge 12 groups would probably favor a Energy 5 invitation if given the selection. As for the Huge 12 including 4 extra groups from the AAC, the remaining faculties are cognizant that they would not make a dent in compensation for what they misplaced in OU and Texas.

As soon as once more, the Huge 12 wants an influence play.

On Tuesday, the convention’s athletic administrators once more had their weekly name — this time, with out Texas and Oklahoma.

“The silence is deafening,” one supply stated. “It is just like the Huge Eight now.”


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